This is a post I wrote in February of 2020
Most of the time I am able to do things independently. I don’t like asking others for help. I definitely don’t like being seen as weak.
And yet there are times when the situation demands that I ask for help, even when I don’t want to at all. This requires a tremendous vulnerability, especially when I am at work. There have been times in the past few months where I have not been able to walk while at work, and have had to teach from my chair. There have been times when I’ve not been able to write on the board, and have had to ask my students to do it for me. Yet I know that in showing my vulnerability to my students, they see that their own shortcomings are opportunities for growth.
Things become even more difficult when I am unable to do anything at all. I woke up this morning unable to walk. Making breakfast was a Herculean effort for me. I used a chair to get from the couch to the kitchen and had to continually stop for breath. I have run a Spartan race, and yet I found myself quite nearly as out of breath as when I was running that Spartan, simply while trying to make my breakfast.
It is easy to write platitudes about how vulnerability and pain remind us that we cannot do it all. It is easy to write about how pain can remind one of the need for self care. It would be easy to write about how such pain reminds us that we cannot do it all and that we need Christ to redeem our sufferings. But I have written about those things before. And today, as I reflect on those things, I find that they simply do not outweigh my pain.
As I write this I am laying on the couch. No matter how I lay down, I am in pain. There were a few moments today when I found myself thinking that I would rather be in labor. Perhaps the distance of time has helped me to forget how great the pain of labor is, but that is where I am right now. At least with labor, there is a baby at the end of it.
I think we are often expected to find the good in our pain. There is this unwritten lie that says that if we cannot find the good in our pain, that we are simply complaining if we talk about it. That lie prevents us from one basic human need: to have our pain heard and understood.
Today when my daughter woke up, my husband had to bring her to me. I have only left the couch twice today, and both times left me utterly exhausted. My pain is not responding to any normal pain medications. And though I called my doctor today as soon as her office opened, I have still not yet heard back from her.
It feels humiliating, being unable to do so much. And yes, I know that this is an opportunity for vulnerability and growth. But I also know that I simply need to process my pain. Often we do not give ourselves and others that opportunity.
Adding to this physical pain is the emotional pain of isolation. I have tried to connect to others and to make friendships, and yet I find myself feeling woefully misunderstood by those with whom I meet and interact. my husband and I were trying to figure out who could pick up my daughter today from daycare since I am currently unable to do so. We were also trying to figure out if anyone could come here and help me. We came up with a very short list consisting only of Nick’s family members, but they live an hour away from us.
I say all this not for pity, but because I firmly believe that there are many other moms and families living in this situation. We have isolated ourselves when we need a village. We have idolized the independent mother and father who can do it all. We have put individualism on a pedestal, and we have lost the sense of interconnectivity with those around us. We have created a culture in which we focus so much on ourselves and our own families that we forget to reach out to others. And in doing so, we make things so much harder for ourselves.
I do not know that I have any solution for these problems. But I do know that something must change. We must go outside of our selves and beyond the excuse of ” I’m busy. ” We must learn that connecting with others is a vital part of self-care, not just for ourselves, but for our whole family. We must be willing to be vulnerable with those whom we meet. And since many of us are in the situation, we should try to cut the small talk altogether and just focus on building relationships.
We also must learn to accept our pain for what it is. Whether it is physical or emotional pain, we should be able to talk freely about it and have it heard and understood. We should not have to make excuses for our pain. We should not have to justify our pain. And yet, so many of us do.
And yes, we should recognize that pain is an opportunity for vulnerability and growth. We should recognize that pain is an opportunity to unite ourselves to Christ on the cross. But we should also recognize that pain is simply a part of living. And that pain is necessary for the human experience. Pain does not always need to be fixed. Sometimes pain simply needs to be spoken about and heard.
For if we do not have pain, then we do not have vulnerability, and if we do not have vulnerability, then we do not have true relationships, and if we do not have to relationships, then we do not truly have love. And what other purpose then can we have for life then loving Christ, our families, and those around us?
Simply stated, pain helps to lead us towards a deeper love. And it is in hearing and recognizing the pain of those around us that we can be led to deeper relationships thus generating a true and purified love.